Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Effective, efficient and experienced justice likely will prevail in Mahoning County regardless of who is elected judge to the court of common pleas come Nov. 8.
We are confident in that assessment of the important judicial race because both candidates for the six-year term on the county’s primary criminal and civil court offer strong ideas, well-suited backgrounds and respectable and skillful temperaments.
County voters are indeed fortunate to have two hard-working and intelligent candidates seeking the position – Republican incumbent Judge Shirley Christian and Democrat challenger Anthony D’Apolito, a magistrate and administrator of the Mahoning County Juvenile Court as well as solicitor for Poland Village.
That said, we believe Judge Christian’s tenure on the bench gives her the edge. The Vindicator, therefore, endorses her for the full term.
If elected, D’Apolito would bring legal and judicial experience to the bench. Over the past two decades, he has served capably in the county’s adult and juvenile criminal justice systems, including his service as an assistant prosecutor for Struthers and Youngstown and in the criminal division of the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office.
For the past 14 years, D’Apolito has made valuable contributions to the juvenile court. He cites an 80 percent reduction in juvenile crime during his tenure as well as cuts in the size of the juvenile detention population and the number of repeat juvenile offenders.
Those dramatic improvements he attributes partially to specialized programs he has shepherded that take aim at rehabilitation and understanding why young people have turned to crime.
He says he could use similar strategies in adult court toward similar successes.
At the same time, however, D’Apolito projects an image of being hard on crime.
“My No. 1 priority is protecting the community. I’d never err on the side of letting suspects roam free,” he said.
D’Apolito also argues that his realm of experience is deeper than that of the incumbent common pleas court judge, specifically in his longer tenure of experience at handling criminal cases at the adult and juvenile criminal-justice strata.
JUDGE CHRISTIAN’S EXPERIENCE
Judge Christian, however, challenges those assertions, rightfully pointing out that though her background is largely based in civil dockets, she has accumulated broad experience over the past two years hearing a large number of criminal cases. She also argues that experience in juvenile courts does not fully transfer to adult courts.
In addition, she points out that the common pleas court hears three times as many civil cases as criminal cases.
Given that we’ve heard no substantive complaints or criticisms of her adjudication of criminal cases from attorneys or other jurists and that virtually all of her decisions have been upheld by higher-level appeals courts, one is left with the conclusion that she has served the court capably and competently since being appointed to the post by Gov. John R. Kasich two years ago.
Given the lack of any viable criticisms that would preclude her from continuing to effectively carry out her duties as judge in the court of common pleas, we encourage county voters to support her at the polls.
Her tenure may be relatively short, but she already has amassed a record of which she and county residents can be proud. For example, she said she has presided over 20 jury trials and resolved more than 2,000 cases to reduce the case backlog in her court by 36 percent since 2014 .
“I know what it’s like when cases drag out through the system, so I made it my top priority initially to reduce the docket to get the backlog out of the court,” she said.
A full term on the court also will give Judge Christian ample opportunity to build upon other community-minded programs she has begun in the court. Among them are the Veterans Treatment Court and her campaign to educate the public about court operations through seminars at public libraries and other events..
In a nutshell, Judge Christian herself makes a strong and compelling case for her election: “I’ve been fair. I’ve been efficient, and I believe I’ve served the people of this county very well.”